Monday, January 28, 2013
kufiyas and corporate spying on activists (reprise)
Five years ago, I helped to unmask a corporate spy. Climate activism was at its peak: the second ‘climate camp’ had spent a week at Heathrow the summer before, and many environmental groups had reported an upsurge in membership. Ken Tobias was one such new member. He came to his first Plane Stupid meeting at a pub in Russell Square in December 2007. Posh, eager, with a Palestinian keffiyeh around his neck, Ken was fresh out of Oxford and very keen. He never missed a meeting, and was always offering to arrange extra ones. He thought environmental activism should take bigger risks, he said.
It's the opening of Katrina Forrester's review of Eveline Lubbers' Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark: Corporate and Police Spying on Activists.
Please note: Forrester calls it a Palestinian keffiyeh. When would a US journalist ever do that???
I noted the story back in 2008, and that part of what gave "Ken Tobias" away was how he dressed: he mixed the kufiya with Armani jeans and designer shirts. But as Forrester notes, "The press described him as more Austin Powers than James Bond, and even that may have been too much of a compliment." The other corporate and police spies described in Lubbers' book are much more sinister than the incompetent "Ken."
The Guardian did a report on spying on activist groups in 2011, mentioning "Ken Tobias" (real name: Tony Kendall).